The Muhlenberg men’s wrestling team is essentially one month out from their season. The team’s roster looks a lot different from their 2019 counterpart, where they finished with an 18-4 record. While some of the roster is carried over from pre-COVID, the majority of these wrestlers haven’t had any collegiate experience.
Angelo Mahaffey ‘22, felt that even though there are some new faces, the team still has the same winning mindset. “When I got here, the team was definitely up and coming and in my sophomore year, we went up to being ranked around number 10 in the country and that’s one of the most prolific wrestling teams that Muhlenberg has ever had. We broke the school win record that year. We should only be able to go up from there. Our team now is a little bit younger, but we have a great group of guys who love to work hard and that’s really what it’s all about.”
Along with Mahaffey, Luca Colestock ‘22 had similar things to say about the change in his team throughout the years. “I think there’s a lot more of an expectation that we’re here for a reason. We brought in a lot of tough kids who work hard and have had great high school careers”.
Due to COVID-19, the team is faced with some differences in their practice regimen. “We’re broken up into two or three groups. The heavy weights are with heavy weights and the lower weights are with lower weights,” said Colestock .
The team last year did not have clinical organized practices but, “Although we couldn’t get in the wrestling room on campus very often, we know people in the Lehigh Valley that could get us into wrestling rooms. Players that wanted to train and get better got the opportunity to. Thankfully, we still got our time on the mat and had captain’s practice. I took the team for a few runs to get some conditioning in, so we definitely were getting some work done,” added Mahaffey.
Thanks to Head Coach Jason McLean’s ‘01 structure, his players feel very confident heading into the new season. “Jason does everything for us. He made a culture that we all want to buy into,” said Colestock. “The guy drives a hard bargain. He always expects 100 percent effort all of the time and pushes us to some pretty far out limits, but it’s nothing that he doesn’t think we can’t handle. He’s pushing us mentally and physically, which is great preparation,” added Mahaffey.
Given that sanitization is a huge component pre and post-practice for wrestling, there are some extra measures that the team is taking to ensure health and safety this year. “We usually keep the mats pretty clean even prior to COVID, but now during COVID, we’re not allowed to wear any street shoes or anything like that in the wrestling room. There’s a new sprayer system that we’re using this year. It’s a little boxed machine that cleans the mat with Clorox,” said Mahaffey.
McLean is pleased with how his team has managed practicing with all of the new COVID restrictions. “The first week of this season has been great. Our training staff and administration has been great as well. Our preseason training was consistent and yielded good results, we just had to think outside the box a bit which is not a problem and keeps things fresh,” he said.
Looking ahead to his fourth year as head coach and having been an All-American himself on the Muhlenberg wrestling team, he knows what’s needed for the team to be successful. McLean said, “Besides the normal preseason activities, we have really connected on the mental side of not only being a collegiate athlete, but being successful given our new norm and all that is going on around us. They understand that there may be some unplanned changes and are grateful for the opportunity to represent themselves, their families and Muhlenberg College. We reaffirm staying positive, staying focused on their goals and how special our program is and what it means to be a part of it.”